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What to Read

   Even with a busy schedule, I get some reading in every day, usually when I finally climb into bed…I find reading helps me unwind at the end of the day.  I read lots of different kinds of books, but am especially partial to historical novels.  I have a large library of reference books on Ireland and other places, but they typically aren’t what I want to read to relax, nor do I want to read a history book…give me a good novel.

    So how does that fit with genealogy?  Historical novels provide a great deal of background information about the time and place in which our ancestors lived.  You probably have some concept of southern life just before and during the civil war from Gone with the Wind.   There are excellent novels set in Ireland.  One of my favorites (and on my recommended list for anything doing Irish research) is The Dublin Saga: The Princes of Ireland and The Rebels of Ireland by Edward Rutherford.  These two novels cover the period from the druids through the Irish civil war in the 1920’s.  Since many of us will never be able to trace our ancestors in Ireland earlier than the 1800s, these books give a picture of what life was like and traces the roots of the “troubles” that exist in Ireland even today.  If your ancestry isn’t Irish, check out some of Rutherford’s other historical novels (none are lightweight <g>)...London, SarumRusska and New York all provide a fascinating history (similar to Michner).   

    Another author who writes about Ireland is Frank Delaney.   His novel, Ireland, is about an Irish storyteller or seanachi. Shannon is the story of a priest, who, suffering from “shell shock” after World War I, visits Ireland in 1922 to try and trace his family, knowing only that they came from the area of the Shannon River (sound familiar?).  This fragile individual is set down in Ireland at the time of the Irish civil war, and like all novels, although the story is fiction, the historical facts (including the death of Michael Collins) are real.  Other books by Frank Delaney include TipperaryThe Matchmaker of Kenmare and The Last Storyteller.

   Last fall when I was in Ireland, I came across a book on the Famine, specifically in Mayo (which is where my husband’s family was from).  One of the questions I frequently ponder is, why did my family survive the famine?  When I’ve asked this of cousins in Ireland, the answer usually is that they were not dependent on the potato…they grew oats or they had a cow.  The Killing Snows: The Defining Novel of the Great Irish Famine by Charles Egan is a chilling story of life in Mayo during the famine.  It is gut wrenching and painful to read in parts but provides an understanding of the life many of our ancestors were leaving.

    Not all of my reading is about Ireland.  I thoroughly enjoyed The Physick Book of Deliverane Dane, the story of  a grad student who discovers the story of her ancestor, killed as a witch. Another book is Enemies of the People: My Family's Journey to America by Kati Marton.  This autobiographical novel of life in communist Hungary delves into the history of her journalist parents of Jewish descent and their escape to Washington, DC. 

   I’m also a big fan of mysteries…I read every James Patterson book.  Have you checked out the genealogical mysteries?  Not that I ever want to take on an assignment that nearly gets me killed, like Jefferson Tayte (by Steve Robinson).  The fifth book in the series of Jefferson Tayte Genealogical Mysteries, Kindredis due to be released tomorrow.   Another series by Nathan Dylan Goodwin revolves around the work of genealogist Morton Farrier.  Both of these authors are English and the books primarily take place there.  You can find all of these books listed in my Store under Historical Novels and Mysteries.   If you’re interested in this genre, just google “genealogy mystery.”  Even Cyndii has a page on her site dedicated to genealogy fiction.

    Finally, check out your library catalog searching on Ireland or Irish (or any other ethnicity or location) to learn about the times that shaped your ancestors lives.  You can also order many these books from Amazon through my store.

    Happy Hunting!


Don’t forget to sign up for the Research Trips to Dublin and Belfast in October of 2016.

© Donna M. Moughty 2007- 2017